I just got out of a presentation on the Kinect (formerly Project Natal) at the Foundations of Digital Games 2010 conference in Monterey, California. This is the second time I’ve seen the Kinect in action, and it’s come a long way. The demonstration started with an overview of the platform, including the traditional camera, depth sensor and microphone array. They showed a visualization software showing what the camera saw and how it mapped that into a game ready skeleton, and then onto the in-game avatar.
They showed three of the launch titles: Kinect Adventures, Kinect Joyride, and Kinectimals.
In Kinect Adventures, they showed three minigames: a rafting game, an obstacle course, and a modified and improved version of the Ricochet game showed off in a few venues. The main concept they were showing off was that the games had intuitive controls. They showed some videos they had where they filmed themselves making actions that they thought should be used to control the game, and determined how fun the game would be. They also spoke on the idea of the drop in/drop out mechanic, and how it they encourage multiple players without the need to return to a menu or interrupt their game.
Kinect Joyride showcased natural gestures. The presenter brought up the idea of everyone understanding the movements related to driving a car. They then went on to talk about how during the development of the game, they found that there were certain gestures that naturally emerged, like leaning into a turn, and how they implemented these in game as gestures that controlled drifting or stunts to give the player extra points.
The last game that they showed was by far the cutest. It’s also the game that I think would get the most play at my house, as I’m sure that my daughter would end up spending a good amount of time playing with her virtual pet cat. They showed an RPG element in teaching your pet tricks like jumping, standing on their hind legs, and playing dead. This skill then translated into an obstacle course, where your actions were translated into the actions of the Kinectimal.
One common thread between all of the games was that the interaction to the game was both natural, and very active. I’ve played a lot with the Wii, and even games like Wii Fit didn’t get me moving at much as the Kinect demo showcased. I’m really looking forward to the launch in November.
One downside, though, was that someone asked a question about the availability of using the Kinect through XNA. The answer given was that the current access to the Kinect for developers is through the full development kit. I’m hoping that we’ll see XNA developer access once the Kinect launches, as that will give me an even stronger reason to pick one up.
I was not at E3 but from the demo's on the net it looked like Star Wars was the hit game for Kinect. Would you agree?
I hope to God that they release Kinect for the XNA platform. I have an idea for a camera game that would be perfect for this but if not then I'll just have to settle for Microsoft's other Xbox 360 camera the one that's being retired. I wonder if it's possible to use default XNA camera commands to get to the Kinect camera.
I'm also really hoping they do a Kinect API for XNA. The Kinect system has a PrimeSense depth camera in addition to the traditional camera, so in order to do anything with Kinect, you'd have to include that information. This means the API will likely be drastically different, although you might be able to pull it out using a similar set of calls.